What to Do When Someone Yells at You in Anger

Bear in mind that when someone yells at you, they're attacking you. This form of violent communication requires you to know how to react appropriately. We explain how.
What to Do When Someone Yells at You in Anger

Last update: 29 August, 2022

When someone yells at you in anger, your brain suffers. In fact, a sense of alarm is activated in you that urges you to escape or to respond in the same way: with more anger. Only you do it by screaming even louder to defend yourself as you want to return their psychological blow. We’ve all done it at some time or another.

Maybe this type of dynamic was common in your childhood. Indeed, some parents yell at their children and are unaware of the effect that this practice has on them. You could also be in a relationship with a partner who frequently shouts. You might even have a boss like this.

It isn’t easy to live in a context in which this type of dialectical aggression is frequent. However, it’s even more problematic when they yell at you out of anger, out of that form of hostility and physiological arousal that sometimes even makes you afraid. What can you do in these cases?

Yelling is a form of abuse. No one should have to experience this situation.

Angry and screaming man representing what to do when someone yells at you in anger
There are those who, due to learned patterns, think that shouting is justified.

What you can do when someone yells at you in anger

We often yell, and we do it for the most diverse reasons. It’s an emotional expression, both for positive states (such as joy ) and negative states. We resort to screaming to alert others to situations of panic or danger, and we also shout when we’re in great pain.

The problem with this type of expression is that it doesn’t go unnoticed by our brains. A study conducted by the University of Geneva (Switzerland) revealed that we’re programmed to react to voices that are expressed at a higher pitch than normal. It seems our brains process screaming as alarm signals, warning us of the proximity of potential danger.

This explains why we experience three reactions when someone communicates with us by yelling. Some feel the desire to attack (or respond in kind), others get stuck, while most feel the need to escape.

These responses are the instinctive mechanisms with which we act in the face of danger. Therefore, when someone yells at you in anger, it’s logical to feel threatened or scared because it’s a clearly violent type of communication.

What can you do in these cases?

“Men shout to avoid listening to one another.”

-Miguel de Unamuno-

1. Keep calm, take a breath, and mark your psychological distance

The person who’s yelling at you is probably used to communicating that way. This is either because of patterns learned from their family or because of a mere inability to control their emotions. It’s something that’s completely natural for them and they tend to try to condition you so that you meet their expectations.

Don’t let that happen. Stay calm and, above all, don’t get carried away by anger. Otherwise, the whole situation will escalate. Put a stop to the situation by taking a deep breath and visualizing a relaxing image in your mind. Mark your distance so as not to let yourself be dragged into that verbal violence.

2. Take a step back and walk away. Those who shout don’t want to communicate, they want to attack

When someone yells at you in anger, you need to remind yourself of a simple mantra: “I don’t deserve this kind of abuse”. It’s extremely important that you internalize this idea. That’s because, often, just as there are those who get used to communicating with shouts, there are those who get used to being shouted at. It happens when we have parents who have always shouted at us.

Also, if you’re in a relationship in which your partner frequently resorts to yelling you must protect yourself, take a step back and put a stop to the situation. Because communicating with a raised tone of voice and anger doesn’t solve anything. In fact, it causes further problems. Just remember, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to choose to turn around and walk away.

When a person raises their voice while speaking to you and acts out of anger, you must put a stop to the situation. You can talk to them at another time in a calm and mature manner. 

Woman yelling on the phone
Whether in person or through other channels, no one should speak to you in anger or raise their voice toward you.

3. Insist that the situation doesn’t happen again

It’s highly likely that the other person won’t like the fact that you choose to walk away when they’re yelling at you. After all, they’re used to raising their voice, they’ve normalized it, and it forms a part of their communicative register. However, someone needs to break that dynamic. Someone must make them see that yelling hurts others, that raising their voice is a form of violence, and that shouted dialogue is never productive.

Have the same conversation with them at another time when your moods and emotions are more relaxed. They have to understand this along with the fact that such a situation mustn’t be repeated. If you don’t set boundaries for them, they’ll assume that they can communicate with you by shouting. Don’t allow it.

Try and set an example with your tone, dialogue, attitude, good manners, and assertiveness. It doesn’t matter if they tell you “I can’t help it” or “That’s just the way I am”. Explain the effects that this type of communication has on you, what you feel, and how you process that form of verbal violence. Nobody deserves to be yelled at.

Always remember that, where there’s shouting, there’s no wisdom, there’s simply ignorance and violence.

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  • Averill, J.R. (1983). Studies on anger and aggression: Implications for theories of emotion. American Psychologist, 38 (11), 1145-1160.
  • Nicolás Burra, Dirk Kerzel, David Muñoz, Didier Grandjean, Leonardo Ceravolo. Despliegue temprano de la atención espacial hacia y lejos de las voces agresivas . Neurociencia social cognitiva y afectiva , 2018; DOI: 10.1093/escaneo/nsy100